Friday, June 15, 2007

Israel Should Finally be Happy

The outcome that Israel has been wanting for a long time - that it has been manipulating and conniving to bring about - has finally come to pass. The Palestinians are fighting each other.

Israel has long been wanting someone else to fight and kill the Palestinians. It couches its desire in terms of "fighting terror," but what it really wants is for one element of the Palestinians to turn on the others on Israel's behalf. Whenever the Israelis impose preconditions on the Palestinians, in order to prevent peace from breaking out, they have always included this requirement to "fight terror."

Now, the Palestinian factions may not be "fighting terror," but they are at least finally fighting each other, and not Israelis.

Beginning just about a year ago, I have written a series of essays arguing that the election of Hamas to control of the Palestinian Authority might be the last hope of peace in the region, but that Israeli policy was instead driving the factions towards civil war and anarchy.





As usual, I was right. By choking off the resources that Hamas would have needed to govern, by arming the al-Fatah party, discarded by the Palestinian people for corruption and ineffectiveness, Israeli policy successfully undermined the ability of the Palestinian government to control the giant prison that is Gaza. Not only were the two largest parties intermittantly fighting each other, the resulting power vacuum emboldened the armed clans to conduct operations on their own, or in concert with other marginal groups.

The situation had gotten so bad that the only relief could come when the warring factions turned their attention to attacks on Israel instead of each other, with unifying consequences as they recalled who their real enemy is. Indeed, there have been those in Gaza who actually welcomed the Israeli air strikes as a relief from the shooting in the streets. Some have actually voiced the heretical proposal that Gaza would be better off under Israeli occupation again.

But now things are different. Hamas has gone on the offensive against Fatah and taken control of Gaza. Now there may be order. Now there may be a single authority that can establish and maintain control. At least, this seems to be what Hamas has in mind.

Hamas fighters issued an ultimatum to a number of the Gaza Strip's powerful clans to hand over their weapons and submit to interrogation today, as the Islamists attempted to assert their complete authority on the war-torn area after their military takeover.

As the last of Fatah's defeated fighters fled over the strip's southern border with Egypt, the Islamists today demanded that the multitude of different factions, clans and groups which oppose it, and operate within the territory, hand over weapons and ammunition.


Hopes have been raised that kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston may soon be released as Hamas, eager to aviod alienation, has warned those holding him to free him immediately.

Hamas, who have now taken control of most of Gaza from President Abbas's Fatah forces, vowed to secure the reporter's quick release.

In a press conference in Gaza this morning, spokesman Abu Obeid said: "We will not allow his continued detention."


So Israel should finally be happy. There is now going to be law and order in Gaza. Hamas will be too busy establishing its rule to bother with petty operations like shooting rockets across the border into the desert, which it no longer needs to distract the people from the failures of its rule. It should even be in a position, at last, to control the notoriously uncontrollable rocket-shooters.

Ismail Haniyeh has offered to establish talks with Israel on the subject of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

But Israel, predictably, is not happy. Israel looks at Haniyeh and says, "There is no one to talk to." Instead of saying: Oh, good, at last there is a stable government in Gaza, Israeli is squawking: Hamas! Terrorists! The sky is falling! and doing everything it can to destabilize the situation again by funneling weapons and funds to Mamhoud Abbas and the Fatah party, and looking around for Yet Another s/u/c/k/e/r party to do their dirty work by fighting Hamas:

Livni: Gaza multinational force must be willing to fight Hamas
A proposed multinational force deployed along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt must be willing to fight the Islamic militant group Hamas to stop weapons smuggling in the area, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Friday.

At a news conference during an official visit to Portugal, Livni said Israel was not interested in any proposal involving a monitoring force for the Philadelphi corridor where Hamas uses tunnels to bring in weapons. Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip on Thursday after days of heavy fighting with Fatah forces.

"Those who are talking in terms of international forces have to understand that the meaning is not monitoring forces but forces that are willing to fight, to confront Hamas on the ground," Livni said.

"The question is the effectiveness of these (multinational) forces. We don't need monitors to come in to tell us about the (smuggling), we need someone to stop it," she said.


It is hard to know what Hamas will do now, in the currently unstable situation, but one thing we can bet on is that Israel will be sure to make things worse. Israel never recognizes when it's better off.